Date: September 29, 2007
Music performed: “Champion,” “Everything I Am”

Kanye West began his 2007 performance on SNL with the song “Champion” from the release of his third album Graduation only 18 days before. There are rectangular flashing lights and a blue background before Kanye emerges in a red sweater, gold chain, and scarf. At what feels like the climatic point of the song, the lights shift to red and the song changes to “Everything I Am.” 

Rolling Stone noted after this performance that, “For a time, West stood as the sole current pop star to tour with a string section.” This string section defined the song, but when he got to the part where the lines that are supposed to say, “I never rock a mink coat in the winter like Killa Cam, or rock some mink boots in the summer time like Will.I.Am,” Kanye mixed up the two seasons and follows by breaking out in a freestyle. His freestyle lyrics even addressed the mess-up by saying, “I just messed up on my rap, live TV like damn,” and “Yo, I meant to freestyle, I meant to mess up.” 

Kanye proved himself a master of improvisation and next-level stage design, even on SNL where the sets are typically forced to be simplistic and uninteresting.